Saturday, April 27, 2019

Curation Month: Call for Volunteers

~Ryan McHale, Head Curator

May is Curation Month at the Museum – and IVDM needs your help! Volunteers will have the chance to go behind the scenes, work directly with our staff, and get a hands on experience curating collections. You’ll be bagging, tagging, and boxing artifacts from the Childers Collections, helping to understand over 30 years of archaeology in Imperial Valley.

Morlin Childers, one of our Museum founders, worked on archaeological sites throughout the Valley from the 1950's to 1980s. His collection returned to the museum in 2015 from BLM, and we have been working on sorting and cataloguing the collection ever since. With thousands of documents and artifacts to go through, we need all the help we can get. 

Curation days will be held two days a week on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 – 4:00pm. Curation Month kicks off next Saturday May 4thand Sunday May 5th. There are spots for 10 volunteers each day and we encourage anyone ages 12 and older to come help us preserve this special part of Imperial Valley history.

Don’t worry if you can’t make May 4thor 5th. There will be more chances to come out for volunteer curation days on May 11th, 12th, 19th, 25thand 26th

Are you interested in volunteering? You can sign up by sending us an email at or giving us a call at (760)358-7016.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Slides, Books, and Geoglyphs: Celebrating the Desert Southwest

~Dr. David Breeckner, Executive Director

The deserts of the North American southwest are truly a wondrous place, abundant with life and rich in history and tradition.  Despite their harsh conditions, these deserts have been home to and supported a multitude of peoples, long before the arrival of Europeans.  The evidence of this past is still alive around us today, and is no more present than in the large works of stamped, earthen art known as geoglyphs.  Only truly appreciated when seen from above, the desert southwest is filled with these monumental works that feature everything from abstract lines and shapes to more recognizable human and animal forms.  The meaning, stories, and intent behind these amazing pieces are not known, and are not our place to speculate -- only appreciated.  

Across the second half of the 20th century, archaeologist Jay von Werlhof and Brawley native Harry Casey used a plane with underslung camera to document and preserve on film these regional treasurers.  Their work recorded hundreds of sites across a territory spanning from Yuma to across the Imperial Valley.  In 2017, Harry's collection of over 8,000 slides and photos were donated to Imperial Valley Desert Museum, where they were digitized (scanned and electronically recorded) by IVDM Curator and Archivist Anne Morgan.  

"People are always surprised when I show them photographs of the geoglyphs.  They don't think of our desert as having such incredible features.  But they are still here.  They are reminders that people have been living and thriving in our area for thousands of years and have left their stories -- whether on purpose or not -- for us today."   -Anne Morgan

This multi-month project was not only for the sake of good housekeeping: geoglyphs are indigenous, regional, and global treasures.  Our desert has the second-largest collection of them in the world, second only to the Nazca lines in Peru.  Many are thousands of years old.  The greatest threat to their continued existence is human intervention -- off-roading and deliberate vandalism.  Documenting decades of photography allows us to cleanly observe changes to sites over time, and to better respond to new and emerging threats, becoming good stewards of the Valley's past.

Now, that legacy is within reach for everyone and not just those with a plane and camera.  A new book, continuing in the traditional publications of Jay von Werlhof, is set to be released.  Combining the photos of Harry Casey and Museum's research by Anne Morgan, Geoglyphs of the Desert Southwest: Earthen Art as Viewed from Above is the next step in celebrating and promoting the protection of these rare desert wonders.  IVDM and the authors will be premiering this new book at a Book Release on Saturday, April 13 from 1pm to 3pm.  We hope you can join us!